LAVAL, Que. - Quebec's new anti-corruption squad launched its highest-profile raid against a politician, sifting through the personal residence and the offices of the mayor of a major Montreal-area municipality Thursday.
The searches targeted Gilles Vaillancourt, the powerful mayor who has enjoyed a 23-year reign at the helm of Laval, Que., the third-biggest municipality in the province.
About 70 officers from the provincial police anti-corruption unit participated in the operation; Vaillancourt was not home when the officers arrived there, his press secretary said.
Laval city hall was evacuated when the raids began, around 4 p.m.
A spokeswoman for the anti-corruption unit wouldn't say what was being seized but she confirmed material was gathered as part of an ongoing investigation.
"There is an investigation underway and the seizures are taking place to help along that investigation," said Anne-Frederick Laurence.
Vaillancourt is not accused of any crime.
The mayor has in the past expressed outrage on occasions when accusers tied him to allegations of crooked cash dealings.
A powerful figure in municipal politics, Vaillancourt has been in office since 1989 although his reign has become increasingly marked by controversy.
A news report last month on illegal campaign financing said a onetime fundraiser for the provincial Parti Quebecois claimed to have received $10,000 in cash from Vaillancourt during a 1994 election.
It wasn't the first time Vaillancourt had been forced to deny such activities. He also denied offering money during a provincial election to Liberal Vincent Auclair and former PQ cabinet minister Serge Menard.
The anti-corruption unit was created by the former Charest government amid scandals in recent years. It has mostly targeted people from the construction industry and some lesser-known political figures in smaller municipalities.
There have also been criminal charges laid against high-ranking members of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tramblay's inner circle. This week the mayor suspended three Montreal municipal employees and temporarily froze new construction contracts.
But Tremblay has brushed off demands for his resignation, following sensational allegations at Quebec's ongoing corruption inquiry.
A witness at the inquiry has testified about systemic corruption. The former construction boss told the inquiry that companies operated as a cartel that boosted the price of construction contracts, with the help of corrupt local bureaucrats and the participation of the Italian Mafia.
Lino Zambito alleged that companies took turns winning what were supposed to be competitive bids; bureaucrats helped the companies take advantage of loopholes and further drove up the price tag; and a percentage of all the profits went to corrupt officials, the Mob and the Montreal mayor's party.
The inquiry will not be hearing witnesses for the next few days.
Zambito returns to the witness stand on Oct. 15. He has promised to share details about schemes that took place at the provincial level.
Also on HuffPost:
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/23/funniest-mafia-nicknames_n_812740.html">Back In 2011, the FBI made one of the biggest Mafia busts ever in New York City</a>. Here are some of the funniest nicknames from that case.
"Baby Fat Larry"
Capibanda Sicliani, 1892
These images of brigand chiefs Antonino Leone and Placido Rinaldi, positioned after death in poses for photographs, were preserved in the album of an old police official. Rinaldi, a native of Casteldilucio, was the leader of the Maurina gang, which was active in the countryside between Messina and Catania; the bounty on his head had reached 4,000 lire. He led the famous attack on the estate of the baroness Ciancio, making off with the incredible sum of 300,000 lire. On September 14, 1892, the commander of the carabinieri of the Pettineo Post, Vincenzo Venturi, along with his colleagues Francesco Navetta, Calogero Letizia, and Giovanni Castrogiovanni, while patrolling the Loreto district ran into the Maurina gang. In the shoot-out Rinaldi received a mortal wound.
Detective Joe Petrosino
The story of Joe Petrosino (1860-1909) is one of those fatally destined to become legendary. Born in the Campagna region of Italy, he arrived in New York City with his family in 1873, and even as a boy he distinguished himself for industriousness. While studying English, he did not disdain dirtying his hands with humble labors such as shining shoes and sweeping streets. He joined the police force in 1883, and his early years were not easy as the only Italian policeman amid many Jewish and Irish colleagues. But the police needed a man who spoke the new language of criminality, that of the Black Hand and the first Mafia gangs. In 1895 one of the leaders of the police force, the future president of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, promoted him to sergeant and entrusted him with the roll of investigator, saving him from street patrol.
The arrest of Thomas Petto
This image, from 1903, shows detective Joe Petrosino (far left) with his colleagues Carey and McCafferty, escorting Thomas Petto (second from left) to prison. Petto, nicknamed the "Ox," was twenty-four and a member of the Morello gang. A pawn ticket found in his pocket tied him to the murder of Benedetto Madonia. Petrosino caught him a few days after the discovery of the body and suspected that Petto was the material author of the murder. The so-called Barrel Murder, however, did not have a happy outcome at trial: between sudden memory losses of witnesses, silences, and retractions, none of the criminals involved was convicted.
Lucky Luciano, Napoli, 1954
Without doubt, Luciano was the most farsighted of the Cosa Nostra's godfathers. During the years preceding the Second World War he had formed a commission composed of representatives of the five New York families: Bonanno, Gambino, Columbo, Genovese, and Lucchese. To these could be added the families in Buffalo, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and the Chicago Outfit. [...] District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey got him on the charge of organizing a prostitution racket. He was sent to prison but given early parole and deported to Italy in 1946. But despite restrictions and checks Luciano did not lose his influence, nor did he stop exercising control over criminal traffic, first of all that of drugs. [...] He is shown [in this photograph] a few years later, in November1954, after a court hearing during which restrictive measures were applied to his activity. Without certain proof, but "suspected of socially dangerous activity," Luciano for two years was required not to leave his home in Naples between the hours of nine at night and seven the next morning."
The funeral of Don Calogero Vizzini, 1954
Caption: Involved with the Allies during the liberation of Sicily, capable of winking at the separatist movement only to then swerve away towards the Christian Democrats when he understood Finocchiaro Aprile did not have a great future, Calogero Vizzini (...) was a perfect example of the old-style boss. [...] When Vizzini died, on July 12, 1954, thousands paid him tribute. In the photo showing the cortege one can see among many others, Don Francesco Paolo Bontate of Palermo, better known as Don Paolino Bonta, first on the left and father of Stefano, future boss. There is also (near the center, holding a cord tied to the coffin) Don Giuseppe Genco Russo of Mussomeli, who collected Vizzini's inheritance. The sign that friends attached to the door of the church of Villalba, where the funeral Mass was celebrated, read, "Calogero Vizzini, with the skill of a genius, raised the fate of a distinguished family. Wise and dynamic, never tired, he gave well-being to the workers of the land and the sulfur mines, always acting for good and making a good name for himself in Italy and elsewhere. Great in the face of persecution, even greater facing defeat, he never lost his smile, and today, returned to the peace of Christ in the majesty of death. From all his friends and even from his adversaries, he receives the most beautiful testimonial: he was a gentleman."
The homicide of Angelo Galatolo
The year was 1956. By then the "Mafia of the markets," also called the "Mafia of the gardens," not only controlled the wholesale market of fruits and vegetables and their distribution among small tradesman, but also was involved in the supply of fertilizers and laborers, the transport of products, and the control of prices at every step of the transaction. The conquest of the market ordained that on August 23 the decision was made to kill Angelo Galatolo. Four months earlier it had been the turn of his brother Gaetano, called ′un zu Tanu.
The murder of Turridu Carnevale
Francesca Serio, the mother of Turridu Carnevale, had a premonition. That night she had a terrible dream and saying good-bye to her son she told him to watch out. When she heard a man had been shot she understood at once and began running toward the quarry. Newspapers told of how a carabiniere tried to stop her, telling her it wasn't Salvatore. To which she responded, "Coward, this isn't my son? Those aren't the feet of my son? And those aren't the socks I washed for my son yesterday, which he put on his feet?" The desperate mother had no qualms about pointing her finger at the men who'd killed her son, and the trial that ended in December 1961 seemed to prove her right. The four men accused of the murder of Carnevale were all given life in prison. But the appeals process, which took place in Naples two years later, and then the Court of Cassation (court of final appeal), acquitted all of them.
The mysterious death of Salvatore Giuliano
There are many versions of the death of Salvatore Giuliano, killed July 5, 1950. The only certainty is that the scene, as presented to the public and immortalized in the photographs released by the press, was in reality a theatrical production. The official version speaks of a gunfight between carabinieri and the bandit, who was then mortally wounded in the courtyard of the home of the lawyer Gregorio Di Maria at Castelvetrano. Unfortunately, the distribution of the wounds, and of the blood that flowed from them, indicate that Giuliano was killed elsewhere and was already dead when positioned in the courtyard. There are even those who hold that the body does not belong to the bandit but to a double, and that in fact Giuliano fled overseas under a false name, having covered his tracks in Spain, or Algeria, without ever returning to Italy.
Slaughter on Via Pipitone Federico, 1983
Rocco Chinnici (1925-1983) entered the judiciary in 1952, holding several posts before being nominated investigating magistrate. His work and that of Antonino Caponnetto, who succeeded him, laid the groundwork for the Maxi trial of 1986. On July 29, 1983, a Fiat stuffed with TNT was blown up by remote control by Pino Greco. Aside from the many wounded, four people died in this slaughter on Via Pipitone Federico: Chinnici; two of his bodyguards, Mario Trapassi and Salvatore Bartolotta; and the concierge of his apartment house, Stefano Li Sacchi.